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Fears and Phobias

‘Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.’ – Mark Twain

The definition of fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain or harm.

We are born with only two innate fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Every other fear is learned through experience or from others. Mostly those fears are helpful. Many of them keep us alive! When we experience fear our brain reacts with its fight, flight or freeze response.

Some of the fears however can be unhelpful and can put unnecessary limitations on a person’s life. A fear of public speaking can be extremely uncomfortable and limiting. A fear of going to the dentist can stop some sufferers from being able to eat!

A fear is different to a phobia. Fears are the emotional response to a real or perceived imminent threat. Phobias are anxiety disorders involving an excessive or disproportional reaction to the current situation. If someone is afraid of birds they may walk or run away if they see one. If someone has a bird phobia, often a picture of a bird or even just the word bird can be enough to trigger the excessive reactions.

Examples:

A client had a disproportional fear of heights and found it increasingly difficult go up or down stairs, even if his life depended on it.

A lady with a phobia of dogs jumped off of a train, leaving all her possessions behind, because a dog got on. (The dog was with its owner and on a lead). She had often panicked and ran into roads to avoid passing a dog on the pavement. If she had not had treatment she may have stopped going out altogether.

The fear of flying can stop some people from going on lovely holidays. They are limited to destinations which can be reached on land or sea.

Treating the problems early on is advised to avoid the reactions getting to the point where the life of the sufferer becomes restricted.  We learn fears and phobias quickly and we can unlearn them quickly, often in just one session.